Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Manchester Bombing - After the Attack

Erin in her bedroom, from series After the Attack, 2018 © Richard Ansett
Erin in her bedroom, from series After the Attack, 2018 © Richard Ansett


Shot just before the first anniversary, this image of Erin is from a series of portraits of the young girls affected by the Manchester Arena bomb. The series attempts to capture something of the emotional and psychological impact that a traumatic event can have on the present for a survivor as they attempt to move forward with their lives. The effect of PTSD is unique to every person but a common reaction to this particular event has been a fear of returning to any large public space and in these studies the otherwise innocuous bedroom locations acknowledge that in many cases survivors can find leaving the house difficult. Part of the healing process is a need to withdraw.

In photographing vulnerable subjects a circle must be squared; an instinct to protect with an equal and opposite responsibility to capture something of their struggle in the moment. Empathy is both inherent and learned and is an essential component in the process towards any potentially great portrait but sympathy can limit the necessity to press a subject towards a representative state.

When attempting to capture any expression that reflects complex humanity we must be vigilant of the conventional rules of engagement and resist the instinct to treat the contract between artist and sitter as normative. It is important to be constantly aware when photographing a subject that they are equally aware of us and any emotion we capture is a response to that relationship as evidence of the complex relationship the subject has with the wider world.

To evolve in the pursuit of an atypical genuine and complex emotion is to continually feed new experience and education into practice. The self awareness that comes from learning about the hidden forces that motivate behaviour leads to an evolution in every aspect of external persona that attracts the projection of the feelings of others. We can literally (and often silently) become a vessel to receive the emotions of others by recognising (and in some cases) removing the obstacles to our emotional progress. Humans are incredibly sensitive readers of each other on a subconscious level, certainly in trusting someone with our most difficult feelings but a cognitive understanding of these signals free of infection and denial can only be learned.

To capture something genuine that offers insight into the subject, ourselves and something representative for the human experience is the holy grail and requires great commitment which may very occasionally be rewarded.

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